Magnolia (Michelia) figo - Banana bush

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Magnolia (Michelia) figo - Banana bush

Post  Russell Coker on Tue Jan 24, 2012 4:00 pm

Besides Live Oaks, Magnolias (M. grandiflora) are probably the best known trees of the South. Most people here prefer to enjoy their beauty in someone else's yard. An old garden favorite here is "banana bush" or "frascati" as the old timers call it, Magnolia (formerly Michelia) figo. The miniature creamy magnolia flowers have a wonderful banana scent. I always wondered if it would make a decent bonsai, and better yet, one that would mimic the big magnolias around town. A few weeks ago I was looking through some Japanese bonsai magazines and was shocked to find a pretty a really nice example. It's the first and only time I've seen one grown as bonsai. Then the other day I was driving through a friend's nursery and found a group of 10 gallon M. figo var. skinneriana and spotted a pretty nice one.

Here it is trimmed, wired and potted. I have no idea how it will react to this treatment, hopefully I haven't wasted a bunch of time and wire - and yes, it has a long way to go. Has anyone worked with this plant? I'd love some feedback. It's 30 inches tall from the lip of the pot.



Last edited by Russell Coker on Tue Jan 24, 2012 6:34 pm; edited 1 time in total

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magnolia (michelia) figo banana bush

Post  moyogijohn on Tue Jan 24, 2012 6:08 pm

RUSSELL,, I Truely hope this one works for you !! it really looks good trimmed and potted wired the way you have it.. good luck take care john

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Re: Magnolia (Michelia) figo - Banana bush

Post  coh on Tue Jan 24, 2012 8:01 pm

Magnolia grandiflora is one of the things I miss most from Virginia. What beautiful trees! I've got one that is supposed to be relatively cold hardy (variety 'Victoria') that I've been growing for a couple of years in a pot...it's going in the ground this year or next. Not sure if it will survive this climate but I gotta try at least once.

I have no familiarity with M. figo but look forward to your results.

Have you ever considered trying M. virginiana (sweetbay) as bonsai? I've got one growing in the ground up here - the flowers are quite a bit smaller but they have a fragrance somewhat similar to M. grandiflora. Leaves are smaller so it might work. I'm probably going to try layering off a branch to test...growth seems coarse but maybe that could be controlled in a pot?

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Re: Magnolia (Michelia) figo - Banana bush

Post  Poink88 on Tue Jan 24, 2012 8:08 pm

Check this...

http://www.sidiao.com/2006_e.htm
http://www.sidiao.com/2006htm/p42.htm

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Re: Magnolia (Michelia) figo - Banana bush

Post  Todd Ellis on Tue Jan 24, 2012 8:15 pm

The tree and pot that Poink88 posted (link) are superb!
Russell, your tree is on its way to becoming a first class tree!

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Re: Magnolia (Michelia) figo - Banana bush

Post  JimLewis on Tue Jan 24, 2012 8:37 pm

Well, at least the tree is . . . Good luck, Russell.

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Jim Lewis - lewisjk@windstream.net - Western NC - People, when Columbus discovered this country, it was plumb full of nuts and berries. And I'm right here to tell you the berries are just about all gone. Uncle Dave Macon, old-time country musician

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Re: Magnolia (Michelia) figo - Banana bush

Post  Russell Coker on Wed Jan 25, 2012 1:26 am



Thanks y'all.

Chris, I think sweetbay would always be way too course. But I do have a dwarf form that I'm playing with. It has smaller stems, tight growth and leaves about the size of a quarter. Working with a M. isignis too. Oh, and that deciduous "Japanese" type I posted last year. This one (figo) isn't much different from a ficus really.

Dario, I appreciate the links. That tree is AMAZING. Those Taiwanese bonsai are really hard to beat. Having spent Sunday working on this one, I can tell you the someone has spent a LONG time on the tree, and started with something very young. There is no other way to get that kind of flowing movement in trunks and branches. You can see how much 5 and 6mm wire I put on it, and all I could really do are some gentle bends and lowering the bigger branches. This is some really hard, brittle wood! If I could scan the picture from the magazine I would, it was more like my tree and nothing like the one in your link. I'll have to keep an eye out for some 1 gallon stock and try to grow one out instead of starting big and cutting back. Very inspirational!

Jim, haha. Funny... and true.


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Re: Magnolia (Michelia) figo - Banana bush

Post  Poink88 on Wed Jan 25, 2012 1:36 am

Does it respond well to drastic pruning?

I only asked because if the branches are hard...I would chop it back instead of having straight ones. You have a nice sized trunk and lots of lower branches anyway, capitalize on that. Wink

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Re: Magnolia (Michelia) figo - Banana bush

Post  Russell Coker on Wed Jan 25, 2012 2:02 am

Poink88 wrote:Does it respond well to drastic pruning?

I only asked because if the branches are hard...I would chop it back instead of having straight ones. You have a nice sized trunk and lots of lower branches anyway, capitalize on that. Wink

I have no idea, that's kinda why I didn't. The trunk's straight, so the branches go along with it anyway. The one in the magazine was full of foliage and flowers, you couldn't even see the branches.

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Re: Magnolia (Michelia) figo - Banana bush

Post  coh on Wed Jan 25, 2012 2:20 am

Russell, do you know what cultivar (if it's named) of the sweetbay you're referring to?

The other magnolia I've thought about is M. sieboldii but I don't know if that would work any better than M. virginiana.

I also picked up a deciduous magnolia at a fall sale...don't remember the variety name but it's a pretty common spring-flowering variety. Has a nice base/trunk, think it could be a nice potential bonsai. I couldn't find the one you posted last year (do you know what thread it's in?) but I do vaguely remember it...

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Re: Magnolia (Michelia) figo - Banana bush

Post  Russell Coker on Wed Jan 25, 2012 3:20 am



Chris, my magnolia is in this thread: http://ibonsaiclub.forumotion.com/t5745-star-magnolia?highlight=magnolia

That little sweetbay does have a name, can't remember it but I'll find out. I can't grow sieboldii here :-(

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Re: Magnolia (Michelia) figo - Banana bush

Post  drgonzo on Wed Jan 25, 2012 4:41 am

Up our way its common nursery fare to run across the Jane lillifolia. I have been tempted by one or two that had roots and trunks but the stock is always on the small side, and ground thickening can be slow. They also tend to be pricey.

My wife is from the deep south and I tend to get more interest when I mention things like Magnolias and Live oaks, then the mindless head nodding that occurs when I ramble on about Maples and Beeches.
-Jay

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Re: Magnolia (Michelia) figo - Banana bush

Post  Russell Coker on Wed Jan 25, 2012 1:19 pm



Jay, throw her a bone and get one of these and make a little "magnolia" bonsai for her. Your poor wife, from the Deep South and having to live in the great white north, I can't imagine anything more... well, better stop there! It would need some winter protection though.

Seriously, these things bloom like crazy even on small plants and the flowers are very fragrant. And I wish someone else was working with it too! I think (hope) this plant has lots of potential as decent bonsai material.

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Re: Magnolia (Michelia) figo - Banana bush

Post  Russell Coker on Wed Jan 25, 2012 3:33 pm

coh wrote:Russell, do you know what cultivar (if it's named) of the sweetbay you're referring to?


Chris, it's 'Tensaw'. It's by Tom Dodd, Jr., a local (and world famous) plantsman. I asked his son Tommy (third generation nurseryman) about it. He said that years ago his dad found an "odd" sweetbay growing in the south part of the county. He collected seeds and of the batch that germinated 4 were dwarf forms. I asked why this one was selected and he said it was the only one that would root, and that his dad could root pencils!

Tensaw is a river that makes up part of the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta system the empties into Mobile Bay. I took pictures of mine but you'll find better ones with a google search. It's growth it rather tall and upright like the parent form, but the leaves and stems are small and rather compact - but not like witch's broom. It has some real potential, and blooms too!

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Re: Magnolia (Michelia) figo - Banana bush

Post  coh on Wed Jan 25, 2012 4:17 pm

Thanks...I was unfamiliar with that variety. Did a little searching, found this site that has a little additional information: Magnolia "tensaw"

The deciduous magnolia I picked up in the fall is a variety called Leonard Messel...a loebneri type (cross between kobus and stellata). I've never seen the flowers (but it is loaded with buds) and don't know if it has much bonsai potential...but if not it should make a nice yard tree. I hadn't thought much about trying deciduous magnolias until I saw one in a local show last year. Anyway, in the spring (pretty soon for those of you along the Gulf coast!) we should have a magnolia thread where anyone who is working with a magnolia posts about them. That would be interesting...

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Re: Magnolia (Michelia) figo - Banana bush

Post  Guest on Thu Jan 26, 2012 1:30 am

Hey Russell,

Nice score on the Michelia, I have had a few over the years & currently have one of the 'Coco' varieties growing on in the ground, the flowers look to be very similar to your skinneriana (maybe its the same with a different name due to location).

I collected a big M.figo last spring, 12" dia it survived being cut back to bare stumps & with almost no root and it bounded back no drama, it died this spring when I planted out in the ground (!?!). Really disappointed by that as it was a stunning piece of natural hollow trunk & coiling live veins. Digging & butchery was done just on flowering.

A couple of things I have gleaned. As you have already found, the wood is very hard & doesn't bend well or easily, but they tolerate wire without a problem, same for going below the horizontal. Even tho the wood is hard it will rot out if not preserved. They usually only have one growth spurt just after flowering so its a long slow process to build ramification (Thats in my climate which I think is the equivalent of zone 9-10)

I look forward to watching it progress & mature, the scent alone is well worth having atleast one in your collection.

Matt

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Re: Magnolia (Michelia) figo - Banana bush

Post  pjkatich on Thu Jan 26, 2012 1:34 am

I have often admired the form of the mature magnolia trees that grow throughout my neighborhood and thought how great that would be to duplicate in a bonsai.

It looks like you are off to a great start Russell.

I look forward to your updates.

Regards,
Paul

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Re: Magnolia (Michelia) figo - Banana bush

Post  Russell Coker on Thu Jan 26, 2012 3:35 pm



Thanks Paul, I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Matt, I appreciate the input! That coco you mention is an actual species, but I've only seen it in pictures. I thinks it's tropical, and I always guessed it to be bigger than figo. I'm glad to hear it's small!

When you mention it being slow and pushing growth only once, are talking about the regular species figo? This one is actually M. figo var. 'skinneriana' and apparently there is a BIG difference. Most of the growers here have dropped the regular figo and moved on to the far stronger and faster growing 'skinneriana'. One friend told me that he had both at his nursery side by side. During a particularly cold winter a few years ago the figos almost completely defoliated and were slow to recover in the spring but the 'skinnerianas' were unharmed. From what he says, it's a giant improvemnt all around - stronger growing, better flowers, and much hardier.

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Re: Magnolia (Michelia) figo - Banana bush

Post  bumblebee on Thu Jan 26, 2012 3:47 pm

Russel,

What nursery did your magnolia come from?

Libbyl

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Re: Magnolia (Michelia) figo - Banana bush

Post  Russell Coker on Thu Jan 26, 2012 6:54 pm



Hey Libby, did you get any rain?

It came from Kinney Nurseries (wholesale) out in Semmes.

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Re: Magnolia (Michelia) figo - Banana bush

Post  bumblebee on Thu Jan 26, 2012 7:05 pm

Lot and lots of rain! The top of my greenhouse structure caved in!

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Re: Magnolia (Michelia) figo - Banana bush

Post  coh on Tue Apr 08, 2014 10:58 pm

Russell,

Any updates on your M. figo? Someone asked about the species on another forum and it made me think of your thread over here.

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Re: Magnolia (Michelia) figo - Banana bush

Post  xuan le on Wed Apr 16, 2014 1:13 am

Nice finding Russell, at first glnce it looks like a Ficus.

Xuan

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Re: Magnolia (Michelia) figo - Banana bush

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